A Newsletter for Faculty & Staff in the
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Volume 10, Issue 5
In Latin the term hortus conclusus meant “enclosed garden,” the term appearing, for example, in the Vulgate translation of Bible’s Song of Songs. In medieval literature, the hortus conclusus became the ideal setting for allegories of love, such as in the medieval French romance, Roman de la Rose, where the rose symbolized the poet’s love interest, or in Geoffrey Chaucer’s bitter comedy, the Merchant’s Tale. The hortus conclusus offered the allegorical characters a completely private space, walled off from the rest of the world, redolent of the original Garden of Eden.
When thinking of a location emblematic of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, we definitely wanted to construct a very pleasant location but not a hortus conclusus. On the contrary, we wanted an open space, connected to the world—a space filled with the high energy of our urban location and immediately attractive to our young, vibrant, and highly mobile student body. When we officially opened our CLASS Edge Lounge on March 3rd, I believe we accomplished our goal. Over 100 participants were present to see Interim Provost Jianping Zhu, Mr. Richard Janus (Chair of the CLASS Visiting Committee), and me cut the ceremonial ribbon. This open and colorful space is located on the North side of the ground floor corridor of the Main Classroom Building, a busy university thoroughfare. In addition, the CLASS Edge Lounge makes a fitting and complementary match to the attractive and colorful space that is the CSU Honors College at the other end of the corridor. The lounge is filled with messages from our college: a large events board, panels inscribed with motivational quotations and descriptions of the college, a large display case for physical artifacts produced or discovered by various CLASS programs, and a monitor with our new CLASS TV channel—which will display interviews with successful CLASS alumni, students, and faculty as well as clips from CLASS concerts, films, plays, and lectures. There the viewer can find even more information about CLASS events and programs, as well as articles about the earnings potential of CLASS graduates as well as the transferable skills imparted by programs in our college and useful in the job market.
The purpose of the lounge and website is not to lure students to CLASS from other CSU colleges, but to encourage undecided students who are drawn to studies in any of CLASS programs to follow their intellectual passions and not to choose another subject of study just because it appears a safer career bet. To that end, the lounge will become a regular stop on campus tours given to prospective CSU students and their parents (who sometimes also need to be convinced). If you have not yet had a chance to visit the lounge, I encourage you to do so whenever you have some spare time.
Another item of news is the official state approval of what will be our new B.A. program in Arabic, officially designated by the U.S. government as a “critical language.” This approval comes on the heels of the successful Title VI grant written by Abed Tayyara, a grant which partially funds the first two years of the program’s operation. Our enrollments in beginning level Arabic courses continue to be strong, and we now hope to build on that strength and the strength of our Middle East Studies program.
You may have noticed that a recent article on the important benefits of paid sick leave has been featured on CSU’s main web page. The article, co-authored by Patty Stoddard-Dare and the Math Department’s Linda Quinn, appeared in the March issue of Health Affairs. Its appearance caught the attention of editors of such national venues as Reuters, Forbes, and U.S. News and World Report.
I also recently learned that Kathy Curnow has won a prestigious appointment as a Smithsonian Senior Fellow for Art History. The fellowship will allow Dr. Curnow to spend two summers of work at the National Museum of African Art.
Finally, I would like to highlight an exciting project that is being jointly sponsored by CLASS and by Byron White and his Office of University Engagement. In the project, eight Communication students, under the direction of Betty Clapp, will assist visiting journalists by preparing articles on ten different Cleveland neighborhoods and the issues they face. The articles, which will also include historic background information, will appear on the media site of the RNC Host Committee and will also be promoted by LiveCLEVELAND!, the website of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress. The project will give students the opportunity not only to gain national exposure but also to create an article for their professional portfolio. This project, along with Ed Horowitz’s summer class, COM 293, “Presidential Conventions: Fat Cats to Facebook,” showcase CLASS’s engagement with the upcoming Republican National Convention.
A final reflection: Just these few final items strongly suggest that the college as a whole is not a hortus conclusus, but rather the center of centrifugal forces, whose faculty and students engage with such diverse issues as Arabic language studies, African art studies, health and work issues, and the Republican National Convention. To be sure, the college still has an important place for traditional, library-centric study of texts, for, despite what some say, that activity benefits the common good as well. But the work of CLASS, like that of the rest of CSU, is ever more widely involved and influential within the living context of our city, our region, and, indeed, the world. And our new CLASS Edge Lounge reflects that important quality.
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